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"So I'm thinking Bellamy," Clarke tells Raven, half because she needs to talk to someone and half because she thinks she'll never actually go through with it unless someone else knows what she's doing and can theoretically hold her accountable. Not that she thinks Raven will, but she'll know that Raven could ask about it at any time, and that she'll have to answer if she does.

"What about him?" Raven asks. She's a year older than Clarke is, back from college on summer vacation, and Clarke's already not looking forward to losing her again when summer ends and they both go off to their separate schools. She knows she'll make new friends, but--she loves Raven.

"I think I should sleep with him."

Raven pauses in painting her toenails, and Clarke maintains her nonchalant expression with some effort. She was expecting this reaction; she's prepared.

"Octavia's brother Bellamy."

"Yeah."

"Why? I mean, aside from the obvious. He's hot, don't get me wrong, but I didn't know you were lusting after him."

"I'm not," she says, and that's not entirely true. Bellamy is her other best friend's older brother, and it's hard not to lust after him, at least in an absent way. He's twenty-three and unfairly attractive, with messy black hair and a perpetual mischievous glint in his eye. He's Octavia's legal guardian, but it's never stopped him acting more like a brother than a parent, and he's always treated his sister and, by extension, her friends, as reasonable, semi-competent adults.

And, honestly, Clarke thinks he likes her. Maybe not romantically, not on a conscious level, but he usually sits with her when he hangs out with them, cracks jokes with her and smiles a lot and is generally very distracting.

Plus, not to put too fine a point on it, but he's experienced. Octavia complains about his sex life sometimes, just in an I don't want to be thinking about my brother getting laid way, so Clarke knows he's, well. Active. And she's heard girls giggling about him at parties, talking about how he's good with his hands and his mouth too, not just his dick.

So she's lusting over him a little. But it's mostly just logical. Really.

"I don't want to go to college without having slept with a guy," she says. "So I need a guy to sleep with before that. I think Bellamy's probably a good one."

Raven studies her, and Clarke doesn't squirm. She doesn't even flinch. Finally, Raven nods. "I mean, he probably is, if you can convince him. But I don't like your odds."

"Why not?"

"Look, you're awesome and I love you, but you're his baby sister's best friend. And this is the baby sister he's actually legally responsible for. I feel like he doesn't look at you and think, I wanna hit that. Sorry, babe."

"Maybe he just hasn't thought about it," Clarke protests.

"You say that like it's a good thing." Raven pets her shoulder. "I'm pretty sure you want to sleep with people who have been thinking about sleeping with you too."

"Yeah, but--once I mention it--"

"I'm not saying he won't. Just--don't get your hopes up, okay? If you really just want to sleep with a dude before college, pick another dude. Or have a backup dude. But you're leaving soon anyway and Bellamy probably won't be a total dick about something like that so, yeah, sure, give it a try."

It's basically exactly what Clarke was thinking, and why she decided Bellamy was a good choice in the first place, but it's still somehow a letdown to hear it from Raven. She was hoping for enthusiastic support or vehement disagreement; a shrug and sure, why not doesn't really give her much to work with.

But at least she didn't give her any reason not to do it.

Bellamy couldn't go to college, since he was taking care of Octavia, so while his friend group isn't exactly the same as his sister's friend group, they tend to overlap a lot, and he never tries to keep her and her friends from coming to his parties. He says that if they're going to drink illegally, they might as well do it somewhere he can keep an eye on them.

Raven might be right; it might not be the ideal dynamic to have with someone she's hoping to sleep with. But still, there isn't much downside. The Blakes are having an end-of-summer/farewell Octavia party the week before Clarke goes to college, and if she humiliates herself and can't look at Bellamy ever again, well, ever again will just be a week, and she'll probably be recovered by Thanksgiving, if she even ends up seeing him then. Definitely by Christmas.

So this is still an excellent plan.

The party is basically what she's come to expect, after a couple years of Bellamy parties. There's a keg, which she, Octavia, and the rest of their friends are allowed to access, and hard liquor being guarded by Bellamy's ex-girlfriend, Roma, who actually checks IDs, because he takes this shit seriously. Monty and Jasper have pot, because Monty and Jasper always have pot, but Clarke's never been much of a smoker, so she doesn't ever bother. No one brings anything harder than pot, because Bellamy can and will kick their asses.

He looks great, of course, without even trying that hard, all tight t-shirt and messy curls. He's hanging out by the keg, and Clarke might go up more than she really should, both so she can chat with him and because she's feeling the need for liquid courage. And he's the same Bellamy as always, friendly and charming, with a slow smirk that makes her heart race.

She can do this.

As usual, they start to wind down around two, people drifting off to other parties or into smaller groups or couples. Octavia leaves with Atom, and Clarke manages to get to Bellamy before he's found anyone for himself.

"Do you need help cleaning up?"

He snorts. "Not sure you'd help. I know how much you've had to drink. You're just gonna puke on my carpet."

"I'm not that drunk. And your carpet's seen worse."

"Stellar argument." His smile is warm and fond, and it's like Clarke's throat is too small for her breath. "Seriously, I'm set. Go home, sleep it off."

"You know this is my last party, right?"

"I know. Was it everything you hoped it would be?"

"No."

His laugh is warm too. Everything about him is warm, and she doesn't know why that's so appealing when it's the end of August and everything is still sticky with summer, but it is. "Jesus, you're supposed to lie," he teases. "This is one of those times for a polite fiction. Yes, Bellamy, your party was perfect, I've never had so much fun."

"Do you want to have sex?" she blurts out, all at once, before she can lose her nerve.

He blinks at her, jaw agape, but--he doesn't look horrified. Just confused and a little surprised. "Generally?" he finally asks.

"With me. Tonight. I've never fucked a guy before," she adds, before he can respond. "And I figure I should before I go to college?" It comes out like a question, and she winces. "I mean, I should. Before I go."

"Is that a requirement now?"

"College boys probably suck at sex."

"But high-school drop-outs have it all figured out," he says, with a trace of bitterness.

"I heard you do."

"Jesus, Clarke." He scrubs his hand over his face. "You're drunk. Go home."

"I'm not that drunk."

"You're drunk enough you're propositioning me. That's my new official standard for that drunk." He looks at her, wets his lips in a very distracting way, and then sighs. "Look, I get it, okay? But--you're going to do fine at college. And I'm sure you'll find a guy who's totally competent at sex, if that's what you're looking for. Or a girl with a strap-on. You've got options."

"Bellamy--"

"I'm really flattered, but you're already going to have a shitty morning with your hangover, you don't need to add any more to that."

"Do you often get complaints about the shitty morning after?" she asks, a little too edgy, because--he's being nice and he's not even really saying no, not in the worst way, not actually saying he doesn't want to, but it still hurts.

"Clarke," he says, and it's too gentle.

"Fine. I'm going."

She can see his jaw working, like he's going to object, and he finally does, but not how she wants. "It's late. I'll walk you."

"You don't have to."

"I might not see you again."

"What if I want to find another guy?"

"Then I'll wingman you. But--really, I think you should just go home. Don't make decisions like this when you're drunk. That never turns out well."

"I wasn't drunk when I decided," she says, soft, and he puts his arm around her, squeezes once. He is warm, and he smells nice.

"Well, uh, if you still haven't slept with a guy after college, you can look me up, okay? Assuming you're sober."

"Gee, thanks."

"You're gonna be fine, okay?" he tells her, and his voice is low and genuine, the painful sort of kindness. "Honestly, I don't get how you and O can just pack up and move to totally new states where you don't know anyone. I've lived here my whole life. I wouldn't know how to leave."

"You could, if you wanted. You'd do fine. You'd do amazing."

"Yeah? Well, maybe I will."

He kisses her on the forehead at the door. "Have fun at college, in case I don't see you. But--you should definitely come say goodbye, okay? I'm going to miss you."

It sounds sincere, and Clarke thinks about reaching up, trying to really kiss him, but--even if he would have slept with her, he wouldn't do it in her house. Her parents are home, and she knows he's mildly terrified of them. "I'll miss you too," she tells him. "Thanks for walking me home."

She does feel shitty in the morning, both because of the hangover and because she propositioned Bellamy Blake and he turned her down, but it mostly passes by the end of the day. He clearly wrote it off as, if not the alcohol, then at least just a schoolgirl crush thing, and it's not like he's wrong. He's a hot guy she wanted to get naked with, and he turned her down. They can still be friends, if and when they see each other.

She says goodbye to him and Octavia together the day before she leaves, and he gives her a warm hug, a kiss on the temple, and tells her to stop by when she's home, whether Octavia's around or not. It's about the best case scenario she could have hoped for, aside from him saying yes and her getting to have some awesome sex.

But it probably wouldn't have been that good anyway. She built it up too much. So whatever. She dodged a bullet.

Raven doesn't mention it until Clarke's been at school for a week, and they're chatting on Skype. "You ever do that Bellamy thing?" she asks, voice deliberate.

Clarke has to smile; Raven must know that if it had worked, she would have heard immediately. "Asking him, yes. Sleeping with him, no. I was kind of drunk, so he was nice enough to use that as his excuse instead of telling me he didn't want to fuck me. Plus he said if I still haven't slept with a guy after I graduate college, he'll help me out. So if I totally strike out for the next four years, I've got a backup plan."

She doesn't actually wait for him or anything like that, of course; she gets a boyfriend in the spring and has fine but not particularly mind-blowing sex with him three times before they break up. Afterward, she admits to Raven that she thinks Bellamy would have been a better formative sexual experience, and Raven tells her to drink less. Which is probably valid feedback, in general.

She sees Bellamy a few more times after that, stopping by for parties when she's on vacation, and it's always--good, honestly. He's friendly and warm and fun to talk to, and it's always nice to hang out with him. Enough that when she gets back for spring break sophomore year and finds out he moved away, she's genuinely disappointed. Being home is a lot less fun, without the Blakes around.

But it's not like she'd expect him to leave a forwarding address; they never talk when she's at school. She still keeps up with Octavia on Facebook, and she doesn't really think about Bellamy. He was a crush; she had them before him, and she'll have more. It's not a big deal.

The next time she sees him, she's twenty-five, and she's completely unprepared.

She's working at an adult education center, coordinating their programming and teaching one of the art classes, and while Bellamy isn't the last person she would have expected to encounter in her classroom, that's mostly just because if she actually wracked her brain to come up with said list, she probably would have thought of him before she hit some C-list celebrities.

Still, what the fuck.

He's frowning at his phone when she comes in, so she gets to just stare at him for a second before he's aware of her. He hasn't changed that much in the last five years, which doesn't really surprise her; he was twenty-four the last time she saw him, old enough to have grown into his looks. His hair is a little longer and shaggier than it was, and he's wearing his glasses, which he never used to do in public, but aside from that, he seems like the same old Bellamy.

Of course he still makes her breath catch; he hasn't stopped being hot.

She swallows, puts her stuff down and then, like she's just noticing him, says, "Bellamy?"

He jerks his head up, looking around in confusion, and his eyes widen when he sees her. "Clarke?"

"Yeah. Hi."

"Holy shit, hi." There's a pause, and he frowns. "Oh, fuck, should I not swear in here? It's kind of a classroom. I shouldn't swear. Twice. Sorry."

Fondness bubbles up in her like a spring, and she lets herself throw herself into his arms. She's missed him, apparently. While she wasn't thinking about it, she still missed him.

"Is that a yes or a no?" he asks, but his arms come up around her, holding her close. "Good to see you too."

"Sorry, was that weird?" she asks, sliding out of his arms and grinning at him.

"Totally. I'm dropping the class now." His own smile is a little lopsided, happier than she's used to seeing from him. His smiles usually had an edge, in her memory. "Are you the teacher?"

"Yup. I'm also the programming director for the center. What are you--what brings you here? I don't remember you being interested in art."

"Yeah, uh--I try to take something every semester. It's--" He bites his lip, and Clarke feels this tug of want low in her stomach. She's been single for almost a year, and it doesn't usually bother her. She hasn't been looking for anything; she's happy with where she is.

Except that now she's apparently found Bellamy.

"It's kind of a long story?" he settles on. "God, that makes it sound interesting. It's absolutely not interesting. Just--I feel like there's a lot of boring background to answering that question. Do you want to get coffee after class and catch up?"

"You are making it sound really appealing," she teases. "I love long stories with lots of boring background information. They're the best."

"If it helps, I will pay for your coffee," he says, and she laughs.

"Well, if you're paying."

It's weird, teaching with Bellamy in the class. It's only her third time teaching at all, but she's never had much trouble with it before. Her students are all adults who want to be here, and it's a pretty fun, laid back environment.

But Bellamy is watching her, listening to her, smiling easily, asking questions, and generally being incredibly distracting with his whole face/mouth/hair/freckles/glasses situation. And she knows she's going to get to hang out with him after, to catch up.

It's the kind of fantasy it's easy to have, in idle moments. Meeting up with someone from the past, being cool and charming and getting a second chance, but that's not how she should be thinking of it. It's just--an old friend who could become a new friend. An attractive old friend, sure, but--not a big deal.

"So, still up for coffee?" he asks, bouncing a little, like he might be nervous. She's not sure how to interpret Bellamy Blake: friendly peer. In retrospect, it's easy to see how much older he always was, how they were friendly but not friends.

And now he somehow thinks she might not really want to get coffee with him.

"Yeah, definitely." She grabs her bag and grins at him. "Can you start your story now, or is it so boring that I need caffeine just to get through?"

He laughs. "It's actually kind of about you."

"Yeah?"

He wets his lips. "You told me I could leave. Get out of town."

Clarke feels heat race up her neck, but if Bellamy remembers that the context of that conversation involved her asking him to fuck her, he doesn't mention it. And Clarke's certainly not going to be the one to bring it up.

"I'd never really thought about it before," he says. "Which is stupid, I know. But I spent so long looking out for O, I couldn't really think about anything else. And then there we were, at her goodbye party, and I had no idea what the rest of my life looked like, you know? And I didn't want to stay in town forever, working my shitty job and living in my shitty house."

"I liked your house," Clarke says, and he grins.

"You were a spoiled rich girl who liked slumming it," he says, and she laughs.

"Well, you also had booze."

"God, I can't believe anyone ever let me have custody of a child," he says, shaking his head. "It's a miracle Octavia survived."

"She's doing well, though. She just got engaged, right?"

"Yeah, she did. She's really happy." He lapses into silence, looking a little wistful, and Clarke nudges him.

"So, you realized you could leave?" she prompts.

"Once O was out of town, I didn't really have any reason to stay. It took me a couple years, but I got out. But I still don't--I never went to college, you know? I never even graduated high school. And I guess I could have tried, but it just felt so expensive and like--" He sighs. "I never felt like I fit in at school. I like reading, I like learning shit, but--tests and grades? Never worked for me."

"So you just take classes for fun?"

"Octavia thought it might be a better fit, yeah," he says. "And it is. Plus, it gives me a fake social life."

"Is your real social life lacking?"

He shrugs. "I've never been that great with people. I can get a bunch of people together and then they have fun and I'm--"

"Hanging out by the keg making sure no one dies of alcohol poisoning," she supplies. "So what do you do when you're not taking classes?"

"Work at a bar, actually. So, still hanging out by the keg making sure no one dies of alcohol poisoning, basically. It's weird because--I could have never left town and still been a bartender, and I would have saved a lot of money, but I'm still so much happier being here."

"That's not weird."

"Thanks for the pep talk," he says, holding the door to the coffee shop open for her. "But, yeah. I'm doing pretty well. And you're working for the education center?"

"Yeah, it's pretty cool. I kind of fell into it, but I like it. Trial by fire, but in a good way. I'm learning a lot about English as a second language and citizenship. I spend a lot of time being angry about immigration laws."

"That's awesome."

"So, you bartend, and you take adult education classes, and you have no friends."

"Not no friends," he protests, grinning. "I have like two friends. Miller, he owns the bar. And Miller's boyfriend is pretty cool. My ex-girlfriend works for the bar so we see each other sometimes."

"So, one friend, and then two other half friends you're counting as a complete friend."

"Yeah, basically."

They grab their drinks and get a table in the back, and it's strangely easy. Bellamy tells her about Octavia's fiance, and how rough it is for him to have her living in England, where he couldn't get to her if she needed him. She fills him in on how Raven is doing, talks about her other friends, ends up telling him about her father passing away, and her and her mom forgetting how to be a family, without even realizing she's doing it. She feels comfortable with him in a way she hasn't felt comfortable with a stranger in a long time.

But he's not really a stranger.

"So, I'm going to be your second friend now, right?" she asks, lingering outside the coffee shop because she can't quite bring herself to say goodbye yet.

"Third," he corrects, but he's grinning. "Definitely third."

"Yeah, keep telling yourself that."

They exchange numbers, and it turns out that thirty-year-old Bellamy Blake is kind of, well. Cute. Which is a weird place for Clarke to be with him. She remembers him as suave and charming, cool and in control, the kind of person who always knew exactly who he was and what was was happening. Confident. Smooth.

But now, he texts her complaints about people who don't understand escalator and subway etiquette and sends pictures of t-shirts with weird slogans and awkward animals he encounters. He gives her free drinks at the bar and introduces her to Monty and Miller, seems genuinely thrilled to get to reconnect with Raven too. He invites her over to watch Netflix without any understanding of the phrase Netflix and chill, and is just, in general, kind of awkward and overly enthusiastic, wanting so much to be friends.

It doesn't even make sense, that he thinks she won't like him. She's always liked him. If anyone screwed things up between them at any point, it was definitely her. And he never mentions it. He doesn't mention it so much that it bothers her, like--what if he forgot? Did it not even matter to him?

They've been friends--well, friends again--for two months when she finally snaps. She's at the bar, and he's just gracefully deflected a guy who was hitting on him, and when he comes back to her, she asks, "Why isn't it weird?"

"Too broad. Narrow it down."

"Why aren't you weird about me?"

"Wait, you don't think I'm weird about you?" he asks, delighted. "I'm totally weird about you. Miller makes fun of me. He says I don't know how to make friends."

"I asked you to fuck me," she says. "And you're not--isn't that weird? Shouldn't you be freaked out?"

He pauses, looking somewhat unnerved. "Uh. It was, what, seven years ago? I figure you've slept with at least one guy since then, so you're good."

"But you remember."

"Of course I remember," he says, with genuine surprised. "You thought I forgot?"

"Or just didn't care," she admits. She can't look at him. "Like--you have girls throwing themselves at you all the time, so one more dumb kid--"

"Jesus, Clarke." He lets out a huff of laughter. "You were eighteen and drunk and stressed out about college and your lack of sexual experience with guys. Seven years ago. I didn't want to embarrass you. I figured you woke up in the morning, realized you made a mistake, and--"

For just a second, she sees red. "A mistake?"

"Yeah," he says, careful.

"Right, obviously, how dare I even think--" she huffs, and grabs her bag. "Look I know you were older and way out of my league and it was stupid of me to think for a second you might want to but--"

"Holy shit, no," he says, and ducks out from behind the bar to catch her arm. "Clarke," he says, looking--she doesn't know how he looks. "That's not what I meant." His finger rubs against her arm, somewhere between a caress and a nervous twitch; she doesn't really trust herself to figure out where right now. "I figured something happened, someone said something, and you were--I don't know. You wanted to fuck someone and I was a safe choice. I was, uh. Honestly, if you'd been a year older and two drinks soberer, I would have done it. I was tempted as it was, but--" He jerks his shoulders in an awkward shrug. "Yeah. I would have been a huge dick if I said yes."

She opens and closes her mouth a couple times, unsure what to say. Because, really, freaking out over not getting laid seven years ago is kind of above and beyond, even leaving aside the other issues. But--it meant something to her. It still does, apparently. "Sorry," she finally says. "That was--unfair of me. To freak out at you like that."

"Not what I was expecting, yeah." He's still holding her arm, and this time, it's deliberate when he strokes her arm. "I didn't know it was, uh. I didn't know it bothered you?"

There's an almost hopeful lilt to his voice, and Clarke still doesn't know how to look at him.

"I feel like you don't get how hot you were. I had this huge thing for you."

"How hot I was?"

"How hot you were," she confirms, finally meeting his eyes, grinning when she sees his expression. "These days you're kind of this giant, awkward dork who realized he was putting way too much effort into trying to look cool, so now you've given up and embraced who you really are."

He leans in, not all the way, but close enough his nose brushes hers. "But in a cute way, right?"

Clarke laughs and closes the distance between them. His mouth is warm and soft, the curve of his smile perfect against her lips. It's not like she's been waiting seven years for this, because she honestly stopped thinking about him pretty soon after he turned her down, at least like this. But she has definitely been waiting two months for it, and it was worth waiting for.

He probably would have been worth waiting seven years for, honestly. She's stupid into him.

"If you're going to make out, take your fucking break!" Miller yells, and the hand that Bellamy had put on her waist leaves it again, presumably to flip him off.

"You do need to work, though," Clarke murmurs, when she manages to pull back. "I'm not going anywhere. We can make out once your shift ends."

He kisses her once more, quick and sweet, like he can't resist. "Good. But I'm cutting you off. Gotta make sure you want to make out when you're sober."

"God, I drunkenly proposition you one time," she says, and lets him tug her back to the bar.

They manage to stop grinning at each other only when Bellamy has to help other customers. Miller says they're going to drive him to drink, which Clarke knows at this point is Miller's way of saying he's happy for them, and Bellamy just reminds him of all the time he's had to third-wheel with him and Monty.

Even when he's not talking to her, she can't stop smiling.

She remembers to text Raven while he's making kamikaze shots for a bunch of sorority girls. I'm doing the Bellamy thing.

Raven texts back almost instantly, The telling him you're into him thing or the fucking him thing?

Both. First done, second pending.

She gets a bunch of celebratory emoji and then the message, 18yo you would be so proud.

He's got his charming smirk on, the one Clarke remembers from high school, the one that made everyone fall half in love with him. Its a great smirk, and she still likes it. But when he sees her, the expression softens, goes fond, and there's really no comparison.

She snaps a picture and texts it to Raven. Honestly, she doesn't know the half of it.